Born and raised in the Midwest, Teshia Robinson is a 26-year-old inline skater from Iowa. She has been inline skating since she was 6-years-old and hasn’t looked back since. Now living in Atlanta, Georgia, she is in the process of securing crowdfunding to open her own retail store called RollATL. I talk to Teshia about her skating and her training with Sam Fistel for the 24h Roller Montréal. We also discuss what her plans are for RollATL and how she is using crowdfunding to help achieve those plans.
What kinds of skating do you enjoy doing?
All of them! They’re all so much fun, I don’t think I’d ever be able to choose just one. But marathon, downhill skating, and urban skating are definitely my favorites. I love to go fast and to explore new places in my skates. I’m not sure I have the attention span to stay in one spot and get good at super technical things like what speed skating, slalom and aggro require. But both are amazing for cross training and aggro is always an adrenaline rush. I love just hanging out at the skatepark and doing ramps and bowls!
What made you want to open your own store in Atlanta?
When I first moved to Atlanta and got involved with the skate community, I wished that I could have had those experiences and that community as a kid. Up until then my skating was self taught and I was doing a lot of things wrong. I saw how quickly my skating progressed when I had input from other skaters. I wanted to open the shop to help build that community and that awareness so when a kid comes in for their first pair of skates or an adult is getting back into it after years and wants a new pair, I can connect them with the local skate community for Mentorship.
It’s also for selfish reasons. This may sound crazy but growing up in Iowa, I had always dreamed of going to the Olympics but had no idea inline skating was a legitimate sport. When I found out it was and that there were competitions, it made me really sad that it wasn’t in the Olympics. I determined to do whatever I could to grow the sport so maybe some other kid like me could fulfill that dream someday.
Did you initially work at for Gabe Holm at Thuro Shop to get my experience to open a shop or did you decide to open a shop after working there?
Both! My background is in mechanical engineering and it’s standard procedure to do one or two internships while in undergrad to determine what you are good at and what sort of company you want to work for. A good friend connected me with Gabe and he was totally stellar and let me come train for 5 months at Thuro in Boston. The whole experience helped me decide if and how I wanted to open the shop here in Atlanta. Gabe’s mentorship was absolutely invaluable.
Any plans of crossing mechanical engineering with rollerblading?
I would love to if given the opportunity! My background was in design engineering and I really enjoyed my design engineering internships. I was actually studying sustainable design in graduate school at Georgia Tech. It’s what brought me to Atlanta. But market growth is what drives innovation. I realize from my studies and from working at Thuro, if a product is popular, that customer base will pay for the time and energy a designer puts into making their product better!
Has anyone been helping you with getting the shop started?
So many people! One of my close friends and mentors here in Atlanta started meeting with me to brainstorm ways to grow the skate community. They played an integral role in helping me get all of this started and continue to be one of my biggest supporters! From the very beginning, my boyfriend has also been super supportive, even when I told him I was moving to Boston for several months.
I’ve been totally blown away by all the support from everyone else too. It’s what I love about the diversity in the skate community. My skate friends have helped with everything from financial, legal, and real estate advice to checking that potential shop spaces are up to code and help with obtaining store fixtures. Even people from outside the community like our graphic designer and the scooter kid from the video and his family have been so supportive and helpful! It was super amazing, when Brandon Andersen who’s done so many excellent aggro video edits, did the shop promo for us. He volunteered a ton of time and energy and the end product was absolutely phenomenal!
What will the concept of the shop be and what will you be offering?
When I talked with our graphic designer and marketing consultant, we discussed how it would be awesome for the store to be representative of the culture here in Atlanta, particularly the diversity and artistic vibe of the city. We also wanted to celebrate women’s participation in urban action sports which tend to be male dominated and to support female athletes. As a result, the shop will be a sporting goods concept store centered around the culture and community of that urban image with a special focus for female audiences, particularly roller derby and chics in bowls. In addition to sporting goods, we’ll be selling prints of the various urban sports and scenes of the city along with urban artwork, and potentially Atlanta souvenirs as well as merch for the store and sports brands we carry.
What direction and focus do you want to push the shop? I see you have longboarding, urban and slalom skating and derby in the edit. What do you plan on carrying?
I really love what Gabe does with Thuro, where he carries so many different sport’s products. It helps promote appreciation for and collaboration between the different sports. It also helps raise awareness about inline skating. I don’t know how many times people would walk into the store for a scooter or skateboard and say, “Oh inline skates? I didn’t realize that was still a thing!” Sometimes we would get them to walk out of the store with a pair!
I want to do the same thing in Atlanta, but with a slightly different focus. Roller Derby is huge here in the South as well as Chics in Bowls; so we want to carry product to support those communities. Also, based on the trends we’re seeing locally and internationally, pro scooter will be by far the most popular urban action sport for kids in the near future and there is currently not a shop for it here. So we definitely want to help support and build that community as well. Interestingly, inline skating is really gaining popularity in the city of Atlanta among young adults. We are most excited about this trend and hope to carry products to catalyze that growth. We are also planning to carry some longboards and skateboard gear to support those scenes as well.
I noticed you do not have any aggressive skaters in the edit. Atlanta has been one of the most important cities in the United States for aggressive skating since its birth in the early 90s. It has produced some of the best pros, had Skatepile, legendary contests and still has one of the premiere events with the A-town stomp. Do you plan on working with that community and including aggressive products in the store?
I’m really glad you pointed this out. It was not an easy call to make as I know it affects so many that have been an integral part of the skate community here. I actually spoke with Long at Oak City when I began making plans to open the shop in Atlanta since he’s played such a huge role in the aggressive scene in the Southeast. I knew from my experiences at Thuro how much work it takes to build up a solid inventory and was totally blown away that Long had kept a core shop open for so long. It was really important to me to support him as long as his doors were open, especially now that he has a kid and a family to worry about. I’ve decided to wait to carry aggressive skates to support the shops that currently exist that already have excellent inventories and staff that can offer expertise based on years of experience. We may still carry some basic stuff like wheels and some kids aggressive skates though.
That being said, RollATL will definitely support the local aggressive scene as much as possible. I will be happy to refer people wanting to get into aggressive skating to places where they can get the gear they need and connect them with the local aggressive community. Also a lot of urban and rec skate set-ups work great for young/beginning aggressive skaters and with the rising popularity of big wheel blading and flat wheel set ups with larger, round profile wheels among aggro skaters, I am sure the shop will still offer products of interest to many aggressive skaters. I am also hoping we can offer lessons for beginner aggressive skaters and the shop will definitely sponsor and promote aggressive skating events!
If circumstances change, RollATL may carry more aggressive related products in the future.
I respect the fact that you don’t want to infringe on Long’s territory, however Raleigh is 6.5 hours from Atlanta. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from skaters throughout the past decade is that they don’t have anywhere to go to try on skates. I feel like this is a major problem and prevents new people from entering aggressive inline, especially those unfamiliar with the sport and it’s online retailers.
Regarding the need to try on skates–I know from experience, it is definitely possible to get foot measurements from people over the phone and to ship them skates that fit well based on that information. Even when customers try on skates in the store, there is the possibility that they will not like something about them after wearing them for a bit and return them for an exchange. Additionally, from my experience, aggressive skaters tend to be pretty particular about which brand and boot style they want. It would be very difficult for me to carry an initial skate boot inventory that could cater to all of the different needs and preferences (especially as aggressive boot brands and models fit very differently i.e. some very narrow, some wide etc.). It seemed like the best solution for the time being to refer customers interested in aggressive skates to other shops that can better meet their needs. Again if circumstances change, we will definitely consider expanding our inventory to include aggressive skates in the future.
Why did you choose crowdfunding to raise money for the shop? Why should people donate to your cause? If you don’t reach your goal of $12,500 through crowdfunding will you still be able to proceed with your plans of opening the store?
For the fundraiser, I chose the crowdfunding route because I knew a lot of people were willing to support the store. This was an easy way to give them an opportunity to share and to raise awareness about what we are trying to do. I also knew from talking with a former roller derby shop owner here in Atlanta that not having a business loan was a huge part of why her business was so successful. I wanted to avoid a loan if possible. That being said, my business plan does not incorporate any of the crowdfunding dollars in the projected budget; I wanted to make sure I prepared for the worst case scenario. I also had enough personal savings to cover most of the startup capital to get everything off the ground, and so many people have helped keep these start up costs low so that we were able to move forward much more quickly than anticipated. I wanted the crowdfunding to go towards fixed expenses to show that it would be spent in the wisest way possible. By helping cover these expenses, we will be able to grow both the store and the sports we support more quickly as we can allocate more of the store profits to promotional endeavors such as workshops, advertising and sponsoring events and programs rather than simply struggling to cover costs and keep our doors open. A donation to RollATL does not just support the shop; our ultimate goal is that these donations will also support the sport of inline skating and those who love it!
Any plans on providing free skate lessons like Roex shop in Barcelona?
Several of my skate friends here (including a couple of aggro skaters) were actually recently certified by Trish with SkateIA. A few of them are exploring starting some kids clubs and programs. The shop will likely refer people seeking lessons to these certified instructors and will consider sponsorship and promotion of any programs they create.
Tell me about winning the first skating competition you ever entered, the 24h Roller Montréal. What made you decide to enter such a grueling event for your first competition? What was it like?
Like I said in the video, it was totally a dream come true! I had actually been planning to compete in A2A that year, but the 24 hour race just so happened to be first. At the time I was between jobs and going through a lot of stuff in my personal life. The whole ordeal was actually a sort of therapy session for me. My Coach Bae as I call him, Sam Fistel, told me if I would train with him, he would sponsor me for the event. Everything was totally unexpected!
The race was insane. I remember thinking how cool it was to get the chance to do something I loved for 24 hours straight. But the conditions were bad. There was a terrible headwind that only got worse as the race progressed. The worst part though was when I made the mistake of taking a power nap and forgot to take the tracker off my ankle. It pinched a nerve in my leg, so I literally couldn’t lift my foot. I wanted to quit but my Coach Bae encouraged me to keep going. We skated the last four hours together with me literally limp skating and him carrying my water bottle. It was a miracle I won. If I hadn’t been injured, I think I could have done more than 200 miles. As it was though, I couldn’t walk for 3 months afterward. I was super relieved when I could start skating again.
Where did you train and what did you training involve. How was it working with Sam?
Sam was a phenomenal coach. He had won in Montreal several times and in just one month of training he helped me be prepared to win. He is a big advocate of heart-rate training and it really does work wonders. It was amazing; as long as I kept my heart rate within a certain zone, I could skate for hours. The best time and place for these 4-6 hour skates was late at night when the streets were clear. We would go on a group night skate and then continue skating all over Atlanta til one or even two in the morning. Sam never seemed to run out of breath or stories to tell during those skates. One night we raced a skateboarder through downtown Atlanta at 1AM and I started recognizing faces of the homeless people around town. It was some of my absolute favorite memories. The late night training ended up paying off because I was wide awake when the sun set during the race and it was optimal skating temperatures.
How many breaks did you take? How long were your breaks? What did you eat and drink during the race? Do plan to race it again?
In Montreal, I took several breaks. I lost count of how many there were. I got a really bad foot cramp at one point and then after skating hard through the night, I decided to take a longer break since the wind had picked up even more and I was so exhausted. The rest backfired on me when I got the pinched nerve though! I had to take several breaks during those last four hours; almost every lap. The wind was at its peak during that point of the race; I remember there was a slight uphill and I was literally falling into the wind to keep propelling myself forward since I couldn’t push with my foot.
For food, I had protein shakes and the energy gel packets (like the ones bikers use for their races) as well as some juice. I tried to eat a bite of an energy bar at one point, but it was too far along in the race. It’s difficult to eat solid foods when you’ve been racing for a long time, at least for me. What was more energizing than food though was music. I forced myself to not listen to anything for the first half of the race. Then during the last half when I was most tired, I stuck my headphones in and started singing. It worked a million times better than an energy drink.
I hear you spent a semester abroad? What country where you at? What was skating like there? Do stories from experiences there?
Yes, I spent last summer in Southeast Asia. I didn’t get the chance to skate in Bangkok or Singapore but I would like to go back there sometime in the near future for Skatefarm Thailand with Eddy Matzger and to do the night skate with the Singapore inline skate groups (they were super welcoming and helpful). I saw a couple of skaters in the city square in Saigon and would also love to you go back to skate there. I did the most skating in Cambodia where they have indoor skateparks where you can rent skates. In this small town in rural Cambodia it was super popular. About 50 people, mainly kids were inline skating to music and disco lights. Then in Siem Reap, I went to another skatepark and played tag with the kids in this picture. All of them even the smallest girl were going off big ramps. It was super fun and really cool to see so many young kids obsessed with inline skating.
What skaters inspire you the most?
At the small town skatepark in Cambodia there was this 10 year old girl catching air and doing 180’s off ramps in this pair of rec skates that were so old and beat up they had rags for laces. She had this fierce determination and competitiveness; she was in her own world when she skated. Skaters like her are the reason I’m trying to grow the sport. It’s part of my dream to start a program to sponsor kids like her.
Do you plan on skating any marathons or events this year?
Unfortunately not this year. I want to focus on getting the shop up and running and I want to make sure I have time to train properly. Potentially I would love to do to A2A or the Le Mans 24 hr Roller.
To support Teshia and her vision of making RollATL a reality please visit the crowdfunding page.
Visit RollATL.com for more information.
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